Jan 31, 2007

Iran behind Karbala raid?

It certainly seems to be a possibility. Reading over Bill Roggio's blog I find it hard to see a flaw i his reasoning. But this raises an important question.

Given the USA has been blaming Iran for damn near everything in Iraq recently, why is it waiting on a Pentagon investigation before accusing anyone? Could it be the USA was bluffing and so does not in fact have detailed (or any) knowledge of Iranian operations in Iraq? And more importantly, are Iran calling their bluff as well as taking revenge for the recent consulate raid?

The MO suggests this, given the attack was carried out by troops who could pass for Americans in look and language ability, yet the bodies were found dumped by a Sunni neighbourhood. That makes no sense, as there are few Sunni groups who could operate so precisely in Karbala.

Either way, the Iranians are likely to be cleaning up possible informants in southern Iraq for this op over the next few weeks, and the USA has authorized the death of captured Iranian agents. So expect a bloody few weeks in Shiite Iraq.

Jan 28, 2007

Breaking: US Anti-War protestors shoot themselves in foot once again

Am I the only person who thinks if you want any sort of credibility in front of Congress and with the current US administration concerning Iraq, then the best bet would be to keep Hanoi Jane as far away as possible?

Geez, generally, in a highly charged political environment, its best to not play to your opponents stereotyped caricature of you and your position. Someone like her is just going to give the hawks in Congress another excuse to ignore the protesters as "moonbat liberal nutjobs who are betraying our country."

For my British readers, who may not be aware of Fonda's reputation, she was part of the anti-Vietnam war movement. She visited Hanoi, was photographed on an anti-aircraft battery used against US aircraft and took part in propaganda radio broadcasts for North Vietnam, as well as disparaging the accounts of torture by USAF crewmen who were shot down and captured.

In her defence, she says she was forced into some of these positions by the North Vietnamese and while I have not studied her claims in detail, in seems plausible. Not only was it the standard modus operandi for SE Asian Marxists, I can see some naive idealist going there without a clue as to the true nature of the regime. Many in the UK did the same with the East German Republic, something I have studied in detail and while the stakes were not as high, once you are in a "relationship" of that sort, you will be manipulated for political ends. End of story.

Anyway, back to the peace protesters. If you want to portray yourselves as people who are loyal to America and do not want to see it squander whats left of its international good will and military power in a futile gang battle in the desert towns (and perhaps have enough force to act as a deterrent to genuinely dangerous and rising nations - such as Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, who are currently acting with impunity), then for the love of sweet baby Jebus do not allow someone one step off of a traitor to endorse your march!

I was going to write a huge rant on binary value systems here too, but I'll save it for another day. That can stand alone, with what I have in mind.

Jan 27, 2007

So who cursed the position of Home Secretary?

Lets face it, each one since Douglas Hurd (barring Jack Straw) has hardly had staying power. Moved to the Treasury, losing the election, resigned or sacked, the position does not seem to lend itself to those who seek continuing influence and power in British politics.

In which case, we should probably look upon John Reid's (sorry, Doctor, never forget the title) current position as something of a mixed blessing, because the jumped up little Stalinist looks likely to have some problems in the near future. Or even closer than that, with the current prisons crisis, the insane deportation of genuine asylum seekers and ordering judges to lower penalties and jail time for all but the most serious offenders.

One almost wonders if he's on some sort of kamikaze mission. All its going to take is one more crisis and he'll likely be unseated (or at least, backbenchers will start to call for it). Especially if its something rather sensitive, say MI5 and the purposefully ambiguous stance of the current Government on the "Wilson Doctrine", setting out the limits of security service investigation upon MPs and Lords. Of course, Reid probably would not know of such an operation if it did exist, but thats not the point.

Of course, this all rather helpfully takes the heat off 10 Downing Street and its refusal to answer questions related to the secret email system set up there and the deleted emails in the cash for peerages scandal. This is starting to get very interesting indeed, it might be an idea to make sure you are sitting comfortably and have the popcorn within close reach....

Jan 23, 2007

Fear and Loathing on the Internet

We were trolling on MysticWicks with a shared account, somewhere on the edge of the internet, when the drugs started to take hold.

I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe you should takeover baiting" and suddenly there was a terrible roar and the forum was full of what looked like huge fluff bunny Wiccans, swooping and moaning and whining around our account.

"Holy Jesus, what are these goddamn animals?"

Very soon, we would both be completely twisted, but there was no going back, we would have to ride it out.

The backrooms of HIMEOBS were like a narcotics lab. I blamed Captain Da. We had two bags of grass, 75 caffeine pills, two crates of Red Bull, 5 sheets of acid and a whole galaxy of uppers downers, screamers, laughers, half a salt shaker full of cocaine...and half a pint of raw Ether.

Not that we needed that, but when you get locked into a serious trolling habit, the tendency is to push it as far as you can go.

Sympathy for the Devil was the only CD we had...so we played it on repeat as a demented counterpoint to the radio....

"Hey, there's a n00b who doesn't look like a moran, lets give him a go on the troll account."
"Are you crazy? That kid's probably an undercover mod!"

Before I could mount any argument, we were logged out and I got the MSN message "hot damn! I never trolled a forum before!"
“Is that right, well I guess you're about ready huh?”
“We're your friends, we're not like the others.”
“Oh Christ, he's gone around the bend....No more of that talk or I'll put the leeches on you.”

How long could we maintain, how long before one of us starts raving and ranting at this boy? This same website was the last known location of Giggles. Will he make that same grim connection when the Captain starts screaming about bats and huge emo kids flaming his troll?

Well, we'll just have to post him disguised links of the Last Measure. He'd report us at once to some Nazi moderator and they'd hunt us down like dogs.

Jesus, did I just type that? Or just thinking it? Was I writing? Could he read anything?

“Can you read this?”
“Thats good, because I want you to know we're on our way to Gaia.com to find the Trolling Dream. I want you to have all the background because this is a very ominous assignment with overtones of extreme personal danger. Hell, I forgot about the Red Bull, you want one?”
“How about some ether?”
“Never mind. I want you to understand that this man signing up the fake accounts is Captain Da, he's not just some dingbat I grabbed off the Strip. Shit, look at him, he doesn't look like you or me right. Thats because he's a foreigner I think he's probably Tongan, it doesn't matter. Are you prejudiced?”
“Hell no!”
“I didn't think so. In spite of his race, this man is extremely valuable to me. This is important goddamnit, this is a true story."
“Hey, keep your hands off my fucking neck!”

Jan 21, 2007

Quote of the day

and Rove, their PR chief, won't talk on mic because he knows he'd come across like the scoutmaster trying to explain why he had to share a tent with your son.

John Dolan certainly has a way with words....

The Limits of Liberty: We're all suspects now - Henry Porter

On new year’s day 1990, three days after becoming president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel looked his people in the eye and spoke to them as no one had done before. It is difficult to read his words without feeling the vibration of history of both the liberation and the horrors of the regime that had just expired, leaving the Czech people blinking in the cold sunlight of that extraordinary winter.

This is what he said. "The previous regime, armed with its arrogance and intolerant ideology, reduced man to a force of production. It reduced gifted and autonomous people to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy, stinking machine whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could do no more but slowly and inexorably wear itself out, and all the nuts and bolts too."

That perfectly defines the true tyranny, where the state takes all liberty and bends each individual will to its own purpose. And here is the interesting thing that Havel put his finger on: no matter how brutal or ruthless the regime, the act of depriving people of their freedom starts the stopwatch on that regime’s inevitable demise. What he was saying was that in modern times a state can only thrive in the fullest sense when individuals are accorded maximum freedom.

I agree. Individual liberty is not just the precondition for civilisation, not just morally right, not just the only way people can reach their full potential, live responsibly and have fun; it is also a necessity for the health of government. Ten years ago I would have felt silly speaking about liberty and rights in Britain with the very real concern that I have today. But I am worried. And it’s not just me. Last month Le Monde asked "Is Democracy Dying in the West?". In the spring of this year Lord Steyn, the distinguished former law lord, made a speech despairing at this Government’s neglect for the Rule of Law, which was followed by Baroness (Helena) Kennedy’s alarm call in the James Cameron Lecture.

The inescapable fact is that we have a Prime Minister who repeatedly makes the point that civil liberties arguments are not so much wrong as made for another age [my italics]. We have a Government that has ignored the Rule of Law, reduced rights and has steadily moved to increase the centralised power of the state at the expense of the individual.

So I don’t feel quite as silly or as alarmist as I might.

The relationship between the state and individual is really at the heart of any discussion about democracy and rights. In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union it was the state’s mission not just to prevent people from expressing themselves, from moving about freely and unobserved, from pursuing their chosen careers and acting upon their religious and political convictions, but to stop them from thinking freely. It needed to occupy people’s thoughts - to take up a kind of permanent residency in the mind of the average citizen. And as the many psychological studies published in the Nineties make clear, this led to psychic disrepair on a massive scale - paranoia, clinical depression, chronic internalised anger and learned helplessness.

We fell morally ill, Havel said in that speech, because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us represented only psychological peculiarities.

Why am I harping on about communism? It died and was buried 17 years ago, at least in Europe and Russia. We’re into another century. We’ve got Google and speed-dating and globalisation and melting ice caps and reality TV and al-Qa’ida and al-Jazeera and Al Gore. We’ve moved on.

As a character in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys says, there is no period more remote in history than the recent past. Indeed, but we need to remember that recent past a little more than we do. For one thing, our knowledge of what existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain meant we valued and looked after our own freedoms much more than we do today.

It is perhaps the absence of an obvious confrontation between freedom and tyranny that allows Tony Blair to say that civil liberties arguments are made for another age. I profoundly disagree with this. It is dangerous arrogance to say that the past has nothing to teach us and that all the problems we face now are unique to our time.

During his speech to the Labour Party conference, Tony Blair said: "I don’t want to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy."

What in heaven’s name did he mean by that? Liberty is liberty. You can’t update it. You can’t divide it. You are either free, or you’re not. A society is either just, or it isn’t. People have rights or they don’t. The rule of law is upheld, or it isn’t.

But Blair believes there is nothing that can’t be modernised, updated, pared down or streamlined to keep pace with change. And liberty is no exception to the modernising fury which serves as New Labour’s only ideological foundation. What the Prime Minister is saying in this cute little Orwellian paradox is that in the particular circumstances of the war on terror and the rash of crime and anti-social behaviour, we must give up freedom to be free.

What an odd idea! Who is to decide which freedoms are essential and which can be sacrificed to make us secure? Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Lord Falconer or the former Stalinist and now Home Secretary John Reid?

"Those who would give up essential liberty," observed Benjamin Franklin, "to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither freedom or safety." That’s exactly right because you can’t barter one for the other even though that has been the tempting deal on offer from the British and American governments since 9/11. The truth of the matter is that relinquishing our rights in exchange for illusory security harms each one of us, and our children and grandchildren. Because once gone, these rights hardly ever return.

But let’s just return to the first part of that statement by Tony Blair - the bit about him not wanting to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society. Don’t get me wrong, we do not live in either a police state or a Big Brother society - yet. But there is no Englishman alive or dead who has done more to bring them about.

The trouble is that it’s happening so very quietly, so very discreetly that few really see it. You have to concentrate very hard to understand what’s going on and put the whole picture together because so much has been buried in obscure corners of legislation.

We used to believe in innocence until guilt was proved by a court. Not any longer. That distinction disappeared when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into force and police started taking innocent people’s DNA and fingerprints and treating them as a convicted criminals.

We used to believe in Habeas Corpus. Not any longer. Under terrorism laws, suspects may be held for 28 days without being charged. Now the Home Secretary wants to make that 90 days, and Gordon Brown seems to share that view.

We used to believe that there should be no punishment without a court deciding the law had been broken, and that every defendant had the right to know the evidence against him. Not any longer. Control orders effectively remove both those rights and John Reid said recently that he wanted stronger powers to detain and control, and stronger powers to deport, which would clearly require the UK to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights.

We used to believe that an Englishman’s home was his castle. Not any longer. A pincer movement by the Courts Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 put paid to the 400-year-old principle that entry into your home could not be forced in civil cases.

We used to believe in the right to be tried by jury. Not any longer. The Government plans to remove trial by jury in complicated fraud cases and where there is a likelihood of jury tampering. It would like to go further.

We used to believe there was a good reason not to allow hearsay evidence in court. Not any longer. The anti-social behaviour order legislation introduced hearsay evidence. The maximum penalty for breaking an Asbo can be up to five years in jail. Hearsay can send someone to jail.

We used to believe in free speech, but not any longer. People have been detained under terrorism laws for wearing anti-Blair T-shirts. Walter Wolfgang was removed from the Labour Conference for heckling Jack Straw about the Iraq war. A woman was charged under the Harassment Act for sending two e-mails to a company politely asking them not to conduct animal experiments. Her offence was to send two e-mails, for in that lies the repeated action that is now illegal. A man named Stephen Jago was arrested for displaying a placard quoting Orwell near Downing Street. It read: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." And a mime artist named Neil Goodwin appeared in court recently charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for what? Well, doing an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin outside Parliament. His hearing was a grim comedy. Mr Goodwin’s statement to the court concluded: "In truth, one of the first things to go under a dictatorship is a good sense of humour."

We used to believe that our private communications were sacrosanct. Not any longer. The Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and its subsequent amendments provide such wide terms for the legitimate tapping of phones, the interception of e-mails and monitoring of internet connections that they amount to general warrants, last used in the 18th century under George III.

I could go on because there is much more, but I worry about boring you and I know I am beginning to seem obsessed. There will be many reasonable people among you who will argue that the fight against terrorism or some other compelling problem makes the removal of a fragment of liberty the best option available to us. A little bit here, a little bit there doesn’t really matter, particularly when it involves somebody else’s rights. Without thinking very deeply, we say to ourselves "if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear from these new laws". Not true. There is something to fear - because someone else’s liberty is also your liberty. When it’s removed from them, it’s taken from you even though you may not be able to conceive of the circumstances when you might need it. A system of rights must apply to bank managers, illegal immigrant cockle pickers and every type of defendant otherwise it doesn’t count.

Cumulatively, these small, barely noticed reductions in our rights add up to the greatest attack on liberty in the last hundred years. No wonder the Prime Minister dismisses traditional civil liberties arguments as being made for another age. With his record he can do nothing else.

In an e-mail exchange between him and me in the spring, he suggested a kind of super Asbo for major criminals. This is what the unmediated Blair sounds like. "I would go further. I would widen the powers of police to seize cash of suspected [my italics] drug dealers, the cars they drive round in and require them to prove that they came by them lawfully. I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact I would harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country."

I’m sure that echoes many people’s desire just to be rid of these awful people. But think about it for a moment: Tony Blair is a lawyer, yet nowhere is there any mention of due process or the courts. Apparently it will be enough for the authorities merely to suspect someone of wrongdoing for them to act. And the police won’t be troubled by the tiresome business of courts, defence lawyers or defendants’ rights. I wonder what Vaclav Havel would think of such a suggestion. Certainly, he would be all too familiar with the system of arbitrary arrest and state persecution that Blair seems to be suggesting.

Blair dresses up his views in a vocabulary of modernisation and inclusivity. Yet when he talks about rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the victim, it takes just a few moments to see that this will be achieved by doing away with the priority in our legal system of protecting the accused from miscarriages of justice. He simply wants to reduce defendants’ rights in order to satisfy public demand for more prosecutions.

It is now plain that he intends nothing less than to open the ancient charters of British rights in order to tip acid into them.

The way cabinet ministers think of themselves today and what they do are at odds. They think of themselves as reasonable, tolerant, humane and liberal people, but their actions tell an altogether different story. This brings me to the Big Brother state that Tony Blair says he doesn’t want to live in, but which has nevertheless rapidly come into being during his premiership.

Most people have very little understanding of what the ID card scheme will actually mean for them. They think that it just involves a little plastic identifier. But it is much more than that. Every adult will be required to provide 49 pieces of information about themselves which will include biometric measurements - probably an iris scan and fingerprinting. If you refuse to submit to what is called, without irony, enrolment, you will face repeated fines of up £2,500. The Government is deadly serious about this thing because of a simple truth. They want to know pretty much everything there is to know about you.

Personally, I find the idea of having a card repugnant and I cannot believe it will be long before policemen are stopping us on the street and asking for our papers. But this is by no means the most sinister aspect. Every time your card is swiped when you identify yourself, the National Identity Register will silently make a record of the time and date, your location and the purpose of the ID check. Gradually, a unique picture of your life will be built, to which nearly half-a-million civil servants are apparently going to have access.

But of course you will never be told who is looking at your file, or why. And nor will you be able to find out.

MPs must take responsibility for passing this invasive law but they cannot be blamed for the other half of the Big Brother society that is upon us. I refer to the total surveillance of our roads in a linked-up system of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. These cameras cover every motorway, major dual carriageway, town and city centre and will feed information from billions of journeys into one computer, where the data will remain for two years.

The decision to put British motorists under blanket, round- the-clock surveillance was never taken by Parliament. It just happened. As the cost of processing enormous quantities of data came down, the police and Home Office just simply decided to go ahead. Traffic cameras became surveillance cameras. This, I gather, is known as function creep, and, as always, half the pressure comes from technological innovation.

We are about to become the most observed population in the world outside North Korea, and absolutely no work has been done on how this will affect each one of us and what it will do to our society and political institutions.

I worry that we are not alert to the possibilities of social control. No matter how discreet this surveillance, it increases the spectral presence of the state in the everyday consciousness of each individual. I grant that it is a slow process and that it is nothing like the leaden omnipresence of the Stasi in the GDR. But I think we’re heading for a place from which we will not be able to return: the surveillance society where the state will crowd in on the individual human experience and threaten the unguarded freedoms of privacy, solitude, seclusion and anonymity. We may continue to attest to the feeling of freedom but in reality we will suffer more and more restrictions. Inexorably we are becoming subjects not citizens, units on a database that may be observed and classified by a Government which is taking control in areas where it has never dared in democratic times to trespass before.

Where this will all lead I cannot say, but I do know that it is neither good for us nor for the state. Humans work best when they have the maximum freedom, and so does government. As our Government gains more power in relation to us, confusing itself on the way with the entity and interests of the state, it will become less responsive to our needs and opinions, less transparent and less accountable.

Havel said of the Communist tyranny in that glorious but sombre new year’s day speech: "None of us is just its victim. We are its co-creators." That is true of any society. And I believe we all need now to acknowledge what has happened to British rights and do something about it.

Firstly, there needs to be some kind of formal audit made of the rights which have been already compromised. An exact account. Linked to this should be a commission looking into the effects of mass surveillance. Second, we need a constitution which enshrines a bill of rights and places our rights beyond the reach of an ambitious Executive and Parliament. Third, we should be writing to our constituency MPs or clogging up their surgeries - asking what they are doing about the attack on liberty. And fourth, all schoolchildren should be taught about British rights and freedoms, what they mean and how they were won. History, as the National Trust is fond of saying, matters. Rights and liberties are as much a part of our heritage as St Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s plays.

This may all sound rather prescriptive but I have become certain over the last two years that we need to do something to save us from our Government and the Government from itself.

This was taken from the Summerfield Lecture given at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, on 12 October as part of the annual literary festival. Research by Emily Butselaar

Taken from Ministry of Truth

Jan 19, 2007

Discordian bloggers?

How many of us are there actually out there? I know there a couple of sizeable Discordian communities on Livejournal, but well....its Livejournal. If I want that level of drama I'll start an abortion debate on a forum. Apart from Hoopla, the late RAW and myself (one of these three is far lower league than the other two, and it isn't RAW or Hoopla), there seem to be very few actually around.

Which is strange, given everyone and their dog is blogging nowadays. Especially given Discordians tendency to rant and rave at the world at large, not to mention some computer literary. We need to encourage a Discordian blogosphere. Its only fair, the various other religions and politics types have theirs, we may as well show them up at their new game.

Discordian bloggers, check tha fuck in!

Jan 18, 2007

Apple, or Quince?

That is the question with which the rather interesing Cu Sith Myth blog posed a couple of months back.

As the post shows, the source of the false information is none other than the Toronto Star, well known for its investigative journalism and war coverage in Ancient Greece. Or not.

Because, as anyone who has read the circle of stories that make up the entire war of Troy mythology (which is not just the Illiad and Fall of Troy, as many presume), there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the item Eris rolled into the wedding party at Olympus is an apple. A golden one, admittedly, but definitely apple.

Thats because it was one of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, as recorded by Colluthus in The Rape of Helen (38). The irony here is that the Garden belonged to Hera and the apples had originally been a wedding gift between Zeus and Hera from Gaia. Can you see the importance, that one golden apple lead to the union of the most powerful of the gods (in admittedly a relationship that Zeus often broke), whereas the apple Eris threw divided them as they took separate sides in the all embracing war that set out how the Greeks understood their gods and their own culture. One defined the order of the Gods, the other the affairs of man. It sounds implausible, but there is no way to overestimate the importance of the Trojan War in the Greek psyche. It defined how they thought about the difference between Greece and the barbarian states, the natures of the Gods, what it means to be valiant in battle and was constantly referred to, alluded and rewritten in poetry and speeches.

Uh, anyway, back to the point. Yeah, definitely apple. No debate at all.

Jan 15, 2007

The death of Robert Anton Wilson

The Independent Obituary

Robert Anton Wilson, writer: born New York 18 January 1932; married 1958 Arlen Riley (died 1999; one son, two daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Capitola, California 11 January 2007.

Robert Anton Wilson, who has died after a long illness, treated his forthcoming demise as he had treated the whole of Western culture ever since he first published the Illuminatus! trilogy in 1975. For Wilson, the idea of death was a joke which might have some truth in it.

Wilson was born in 1932 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised there. He studied engineering and mathematics, without graduating, at the Brooklyn Polytechnical College and New York University. From 1965 to 1971 he worked in Chicago for Playboy magazine, a period when the journal still saw itself as the harbinger of a great liberating transformation in Western culture: free sex, free thought, free world.

He and a fellow editor, Robert Shea, spent much of their time answering correspondence from readers on political issues, much of it devoted to obsessive rants about various world-dominating conspiracies. The first draft of their three-volume novel, Illuminatus!, in whose pages dozens of conspiracy theories are treated as all being true, was written while both were still working for Playboy.

Perhaps because it so masterfully combines spoof and paranoia, Illuminatus! soon became a kind of bible for American conspiracy enthusiasts. Taking its absurdly complicated plot from science-fiction writers like A.E. Van Vogt, and its tone of hilarious desperation from writers like Flann O'Brien and Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, the basic story opposes the Illuminati, who have secretly ruled the world since the founding of the Order centuries earlier, to the Discordians, a madcap crew of anarchists whose antics may owe something to Thomas Pynchon's V (1963). In the end, the mysterious figure who "shapes" the Discordians - a Captain Nemo-like shaman who governs the world from a secret submarine - turns out to be the secret master of the Illuminati as well.

It is all a joke, of course, which might have some truth in it; it quite perfectly caught the uneasy exhilaration of the 1970s American counter-culture, which half-believed that the world was passing through a cusp into freedom, and half-knew that the roots of power were untouched by any of this flowering. Timothy Leary said the book was "more important than Ulysses or Finnegans Wake". The Fortean Times - a journal founded to honour the memory of Charles Fort (1874-1932), an earlier Yankee trickster - thought it was properly preposterous. The young Ken Campbell staged the entire trilogy, first in Liverpool in 1976, then as the inaugural production in March 1977 at the new Cottesloe Theatre on the South Bank.

The book itself has remained constantly in print. Shea died in 1983, but over the course of an extremely active literary career Wilson continued to generate harum-scarum continuations like the Schrödinger's Cat trilogy (1980-81), in which an underlying seriousness of intent does gradually surface. Wilson was never serious about world-dominating conspiracies as such; but he was absolutely serious about the realities that these superficially nonsensical theories do reflect. He was highly conscious, in other words, of the barriers that frustrate individual human beings - individual New Age Californians, cynics might respond - from gaining full autonomy in their lives. For Wilson there is indeed a "they" out there, a loose cabal of owners whose primary goal is to make passive consumers of us all.

The term "fnord", which he coined, is all about this. A fnord is a subliminal message that causes anxiety in those who encounter it embedded in stories or other material our masters want us to avoid or deny. The best way to allay this anxiety is not to think about these matters. In joke treatises and tales, into which slyly he infiltrates perfectly serious concerns, Wilson argued for decades that it was necessary for all of us to "see the fnords" that entangle our lives, and to cut free of them.

In later years, Wilson founded and/or joined a slough of fake societies, made a number of records expounding sense and nonsense equally, wrote voluminously in many journals. He was madcap, but never told a frivolous untruth; he was a kind of benign Loki figure for thousands of readers, many of whom helped support him in his last months, when medical expenses had become overwhelming.

John Clute


EDIT: Robert Anton Wilson tribute night to be held on Out There Radio on the 18th of January, RAW's (and incidentally also my) birthday. Check out http://wuog.org/OutThere/ to download the podcast.

Jan 12, 2007

I think the USA must be gearing up to attack somewhere...

Many call me a cynic. But it makes sense. They obviously let the Pentagon coffee boy draft the response to the Somalian air raids, because quite frankly anyone who gets upset about the UIC and allies getting the shit bombed out of them needs their heads checked. Then again, logical consistency has never been a strong point of the left or right wing, at least not for 60 odd years.

So everyone is crying foul over Somalia and meanwhile, the USA raiding the Iranian consulate in Iraq (an act of war), has dropped off the BBC front page already. Oh, wait, its reappeared, because Iraq now say they backed it. But it wasn't up in the early afternoon. And suddenly everyones favourite bogeyman, Al-Qaeda, is back on the radar.

Here is the cliff notes version of the BBC report: Al-Qaeda is based in Pakistan now and is trying to reconnect to its Middle East, Asian, European and African Horn cells.

Yeah, thats it. Shit, I'm no expert on AQ but I could have told you this and ten times more in a few off hand comments. In 2003, Al-Qaeda sent fighters who had been trained by them to Iraq, where they made contact with Zarqawi's cells and used their superior tactical information to plot attacks. In 2005 the CIA caught a man who was commonly referred to as the "Switchboard", because he was reconnecting the Al-Qaeda cells, which have been cropping up like nobodies business, and with no prompting from the core leadership since 9/11, who had communications disrupted since being ousted from Afghanistan.

Is this really news to anyone? What did they expect, that Bin Laden and Zawahiri would say "well, shit, thats us beat. Fancy a visit to the brothels in Karachi? There's this one strip club in the Shiite quarter with the most amazing...". You get the idea.

So obviously, since such old news is being reported, something is up. And that, my friends, is Iran. Dr Ali Ansari, one of my favourite lecturers up here, as well as probably the most consulted expert on Iran for the media (I'm surprised he ever sleeps, given how quoted he is), thinks this bodes bad. Really bad. And knowing how academics are careful with their choice of words, thats not a good thing to hear. Israel also started off the New Year with a plan to detonate nukes over Iran in a first strike leaked to the Times. But only little nukes. So thats all fine, then.

Some of the blame for this, I feel, goes with the Democrat hawks. Clinton, Dean and Obama, in particular, are more than up for blasting Iran back to the stone age. So thats some of the leading lights of the Dems and the Executive in agreement then, as well as Israel in a dangerous mood after its conventional defeat in Lebanon over the summer, to Iran's proxies no less.

I'd lose no sleep with Iran's repugnant and backward regime being wiped out of existence. Its the millions of innocents that would go with it which worry me. And thats not hyperbole. Iran is not very popular with the Arab states right now, bar Syria. Should Iran end up being pre-emptively nuked, there will be a tidal wave of vengeance across the Middle East from every fanatical faction. This justifies every paranoid conspiracy theory being peddled by the more insane Imams right now, about a US overthrow of Muslim regimes. Since these ideas already are gaining currency since the invasion of Iraq, this will just confirm them among the wider population. We're talking a regional powershift that could leave the USA with barely a friend in the Middle East. Radical governments hostile to the USA and Israel could be swept to power on a message of revenge and hate. International groups like Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda would profit incredibly in terms of recruits. If we could bet on anything, it would be Hezbollah unleashing a terrorist campaign against the USA.

Isn't anyone in policy saying this? It can't just be the people outside of the government who can see the obvious problems this would cause, can it?

New favourite site of the moment


What can I say? She's an excellent and passionate writer, who makes a hell of alot of sense and, when she gets going, could probably give Ivan Stang a run for his money.

Excellent stuff and highly recommended.

Jan 9, 2007

Now this pisses me off no end


I know, I know, I said the media should shut up about Saddam, but I'm not the media. No-one of huge importance listens to me, so my criticism doesn't apply.

Now, I didn't agree with the Iraq war. I felt it was ill-conceived, badly timed and pointless. Billions would be spent on dealing with a contained threat who was going nowhere fast, while Osama and Zawahiri were legging it over the border to Pakistan.

That said, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam is a bloody tyrant who should have died 26 years ago and spared the rest of the world the effort. He indirectly has the blood of a million on his hands from the Iran-Iraq war he instigated. The deaths in Iraq he caused likely went into the hundreds of thousands through his brutal repression, which included torture, rape and murder, sometimes at his own hands. Revenge attacks could wipe out whole towns, with everyone taken in for "questioning", or in the case of Halabja, gassed with chemical weapons.

But making claims like "Bush is many many many times more dangerous than Hussain ever was" can only be the product of a deranged mind, unless they mean in potential, which is unlikely. Bush could be far more dangerous and cause way more death and destruction than he already has. Nukes, airstrikes, biological warfare....the USA exceeds every other nation in this respect.

Wars of aggression may have been considered by the Nuremburg trials as crimes against humanity, but so is willful genocide, of which Saddam is most certainly guilty. That people can decry Bush and Blair as tyrannical in one sentence and in the next one effectively excuse Saddam by laying all the blame on the West (a very racist way of thinking, in both senses. Evil white people and naive Arabs who cannot help themselves. How disgusting) is....incredible. How can people be so deluded?

I seem to remember a General Election in 2005, where the British public had their say on who was to represent them in Parliament. And much to my personal dismay, New Labour took the majority of seats and saw fit to keep Tony Blair in the leadership role. In America too, there were elections recently. And those Americans angry about the Iraq war turned over control of Congress entirely to the Democrats.

In Iraq, you had two choices: vote for Saddam or a bullet in the head. In Iraq, anything found mouthing off about "democracy" or "equal rights" would probably find themselves detained at a military prison, where acid, knives, bullets and sticks would all be employed to make you reconsider your position and tell who you got them from. Your family may also suffer similar treatment. Then, if you were lucky, you could have a swift execution.

And you may point out that the CIA can and do torture people and MI6 are content to hand people over to countries who do and then take notes. And thats totally reprehensible and inexcusable in a liberal democracy, I agree. But Bush and Blair are not doing these to peace protesters, or members of opposition parties, or people mouthing off in coffee shops. I have yet to see Nancy Pelosi waterboarded, or David Cameron subject to extraordinary rendition (kidnapping). By all means these should be fought and resisted and are incompatible with the ideals of freedom. But they are very low on the scale compared to a monster like Saddam.

Cicero had the right idea about tyrants. "There can be no such thing as fellowship with tyrants, nothing but bitter feud is possible: and it is not repugnant to nature to despoil, if you can, those whom it is a virtue to kill, nay this pestilent and godless brood should be utterly banished from human society." Saddam was worthy of one thing and one thing alone; a bullet in the head, and another if he was still twitching. By comparing such a monster to morons like Bush and Blair is nothing less than to dishonour the many dead Iraqis who fought valiantly against Saddam for freedom and representative democracy.

Idiots who indulge in these comparisons do no aid to their movements or causes. Their rhetoric is harmful in the extreme, irresponsible and offensive.

I am severely pissed off having read this.

Sageman - Understanding terror networks

I linked this on my StumbleUpon site, but I may as well put it up here too, as it shows some pretty hard and conclusive data concerning Al-Qaeda. The article explains it all really, and while I don't yet have the book (too busy buying Jared Diamond stuff), it is most certainly considered brilliant by many others and well worth owning. As the article explains, Sageman is an ex-CIA psychiatrist who was involved in Afghanistan the first time around, when the Soviets were there. He also managed to interview or otherwise gain data on 400 Al-Qaeda terrorists, making this study very important.

Understanding Terror Networks E-notes

Jan 7, 2007

Saddam Hussein is STILL dead

No, really. For a dead man, he gets alot of coverage. Wasn't there something said about...oh, I don't know, Iraq getting over his brutal rule. Presumably by having it shoved in their face every ten seconds by the world media. Sigh....the man is dead. Though reporting on him means you can ignore that this has been one of the most lethal months in Iraq (which much please the politicians), please try and report on the current issues. Please?